Closing Remarks by Ms Olga Algayerova, UN Under-Secretary-General Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe
Your Excellencies, Minister Prodromou and Minister Kadis, co-Chairs of the Conference,
Ladies and gentlemen,
The last EfE conference in Batumi took place in 2016. It was successful and encouraging. But then, six years passed and brought so many challenges that during the preparation for the Nicosia Conference, we had moments of doubt. Will it ever be possible to meet again? When? In what format? The obstacles were there, and they were real. But we kept working and hoping, and now we are here.
Two and a half days ago we arrived in this hall and witnessed the impressive opening ceremony of the Nicosia Conference. We are now about to conclude it.
Actually, the Filoxenia Conference Center has held not one but four high-level meetings since Wednesday: The Ninth Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference, and, in its framework, the Third High-level Meeting of Education and Environment Ministries. In parallel, the High-level Meeting of the Ministers for Education on Education for Sustainable Development and the High-Level Meeting of Mediterranean Ministers of Education of the ESD Mediterranean Action Plan have been held yesterday. And just to mention that the Special Sessions of both the UNECE Committee on Environmental Policy and the UNECE Steering Committee on Education for Sustainable Development were also held in Filoxenia, this Monday and Tuesday.
Thinking of the amount of content that has been packed in this week alone, it comes to mind that those days were a bit like Korokolios – a basket of straw that our generous hosts gave us as a gift in memory of this wonderful country and its people; Korokolios also looks rather small, but once opened, you will be amazed at so many useful and delicious items packed inside.
So, let’s take another look at the sweet content of this week’s Korokolios:
– You recognized the seriousness of the challenges facing our planet and our region and the need for a joint and coordinated response;
– You celebrated the memories of 31 years of the “Environment for Europe” process, the boldness of its founders, its proven track record, and its possible role in building a sustainable future
– You recognized that greening the economy is of critical importance for the achievement of all the Sustainable Development Goals, and agreed on shared approaches to greening of infrastructure development and tourism sectors
– You celebrated successful conclusion of the Batumi Action for Cleaner Air, reaffirmed your commitment to the continuing implementation of the voluntary Pan-European Strategic Framework for Greening the Economy, welcomed the progress in the implementation of the voluntary commitments of the Batumi Initiative on Green Economy and – responding to the Nicosia Call – added more than sixty new commitments to it
– You took note of the seventh pan-European assessment, acknowledged the importance of regular, indicator-based environmental assessments, and confirmed your commitment to keeping the pan-European region under regular reviews
– You commended the ECE Environmental Performance Review Programme and endorsed the fourth cycle of environmental performance reviews
– You also commended the general establishment of the Shared Environmental Information System across the region
– You reaffirmed the importance of further strengthening and scaling up education for sustainable development by adopting the Nicosia Ministerial Statement on Education for Sustainable Development, including the Framework for Implementation of the UNECE Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development from 2021 to 2030;
There was still much to celebrate, but there was also deep regret:
– You regretted that the path of the “Environment for Europe” process towards a more sustainable pan-European region, coming such a long way from Dobris Castle to Nicosia, was violently interrupted in February 2022;
– You condemned the aggression against Ukraine and expressed your concern about the harmful impact that this aggression has already had, and will have, on the environment;
– You recognized the need to assess the environmental consequences of the military aggression against Ukraine and affirmed your support to Ukraine in its reconstruction, inviting the ECE secretariat and partners to back this process.
In my opening remarks two days ago, I said that Nicosia should answer the question – can our cooperation continue? Will it survive this test? I am now happy to state that, as expected, the answer is YES. You have demonstrated your unity and determination to tackle pressing issues together, in cooperation with UNECE countries, as well as with other UN Member States, to whom I am very grateful in this regard for being and working with us during this week.
Nicosia is a success – now we finally can say it out loud. The EfE journey that began 31 years ago continues and I am proud that UNECE will also continue to provide secretariat services for this process. I am grateful to my diligent and professional colleagues from the UNECE secretariat and our partner organizations, especially UNEP, who have made a great contribution to the preparation of Nicosia.
Speaking of contributions, I am pleased to take this opportunity to thank our donors, whose contributions to the UNECE Environment for Europe Fund after Batumi enabled us to first conduct the Mid-Term Review of the Batumi Conference outcomes in 2019, and then support the organization of the Nicosia Conference in 2022: Switzerland, Norway, Italy, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Serbia, and Finland. Without your kind contribution we would not be here today.
And finally, of course, Cyprus. So many thanks here that I have to structure them somehow. I would like to sincerely thank:
– The Government of Cyprus, and personally Minister Prodromou and Minister Kadis;
– All colleagues from an efficient and responsive Host Country Secretariat led by Permanent Secretary Mr. Neophytos Papadopoulos and coordinated by Dr. Aravella Zahariou, who is also Chair of the UNECE Steering Committee on Education for Sustainable Development and who is probably now well-known to all of you;
– The people of Cyprus, the wonderful citizens and especially the children of Nicosia, for their hospitality and friendliness,
– Local staff and our helpful volunteers at the airport, hotels, Filoxenia conference center – for their help, as well as for smiles and sincere kindness;
– Media representatives for genuine interest and help in highlighting our work;
– And, of course, the ancient city of Nicosia – the name which our Ministerial Declaration will now bear.
Thank you for the perfect conference in Nicosia. There was too little time to study Greek, but I am sure that all our delegates now know by heart what Filoxenia means – both as a word and as an action. Thank you, Cyprus, for this wonderful lesson.
The EfE journey continues, and you decided to hold the next EfE Conference in five years; I hope that by then our world will be greener, cleaner, more just, and more peaceful than it is now.
Let’s make it happen.